Vocational Retirement ©


Through the struggle of the church to be the church in a time of pandemic, in the chaos of our time in the life of America and the diverging future of the United Methodist Church, I have experienced the Lord leading us into a new spring. While that leading is focused on the life of the church, the pain of our world, and the hunger for the gospel, I have also experienced the presence of the Lord guiding Jolynn and me into a new season of our life together.
 
During a recent trip to West Virginia, where we have built a retirement home near our daughter Sarah, son-in-law Stephen, and grandchildren Grace and Sam, I had a day of epiphany. Near the end of the day, Jolynn asked me how my day had been. I replied that the highlight of my day had been walking my 8-year-old granddaughter Grace to her school bus stop with her father and losing in a sword duel (plastic swords thank God!) to my 5-year-old grandson Sam. It became clear to me after almost 47 years of active ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church, that it was time to step down from active service as a bishop.
 
Stepping down as bishop is not the end of my active ministry. I look forward with eager anticipation to continued service to Lord and to Christ’s church through service as Bishop in Residence at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio (one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries). In this part-time position, I will be involved with the Doctor of Ministry program, counseling students on church relationships where needed, and assisting President Kent Millard in various projects as requested. I believe deeply in the ministry of this historic seminary (which along with the “Evangelical” part of Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary came into the newly formed United Methodist Church from the Evangelical Brethren Church). The Holy Spirit is moving in remarkable ways through United Theological Seminary!
 
“You Can’t Retire from the Christian Faith and from Jesus!”
 
When I was a very young pastor serving for the first time in a church on my own, I was active in the Kerrville Ministerial Alliance. At that time, the Ministerial Alliance held a Christmas dinner for all of its members. Rev. Sherwood Davis, a retired Methodist minister well up in his eighties was chosen to speak for all the retired clergy in the Alliance, which included representation from about 10 different denominations. Forty-four years later, I can still remember parts of his speech. Sherwood started, “I don’t know that this business of being a retired Christian minister is?! You can’t retire from the Christian faith and from Jesus. I don’t care if you are lay or clergy!” 
 
Rev. Davis has long since joined the Church Triumphant and sits at the throne of Glory and Grace, but his words have renewed impact on me. We, all who claim to be Christian, do not retire from allegiance to Christ and service to the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.  While I will be leaving the active ministry of a bishop after 13 and a half years and retiring from active appointment after 47 and a half years, I treasure the opportunity to discover new fields of service and ministry to the Lord. 
 

Bishop Lowry at the close of the 2019 Central Texas Annual Conference.

As I stated in my public announcement, it has been my joy, privilege, and honor to serve as the resident bishop of the Central Texas Conference in the Fort Worth Episcopal Area for the past 12 and a half years. Both Jolynn and I have come to love the Central Texas Conference and the Fort Worth Area. We will miss our home and friends in the Fort Worth area. With the Apostle Paul, we “don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:16, CEB)
 
I look forward to our remaining seven or so months together. The Lord is with us and together we are called – lay and clergy alike – into the ministry of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

“I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:18-21)

 
Yours in Christ, Bishop Mike Lowry